[Sequel to Crimson Doubts]
“Akari? Really?” That wasn’t what Kyouko had expected to hear. It was nearing the end of the free period, and Yui was basically done with her work. So she had decided to ask Kyouko for relationship help.
“Yes, really,” Yui said, slightly exasperated already. Maybe it was a mistake to bring this up. “Is there a problem with that?”
“No no, no problem,” Kyouko said, though she was having a hard time picturing it. “But aren’t you worried she’s going to just vanish while you are hanging out?” she asked with a slight grin, causing Yui to roll her eyes.
“Maybe I should ask Sugiura-san instead, you’re no help at all,” Yui said, and sighed deeply.
“Help? I’m supposed to help?” Kyouko wasn’t being snarky, she just hadn’t realised what Yui was asking.
“That was the-” Yui sighed again. “Sometimes it feels like you’re only paying attention to yourself.” In more ways than one, she added silently.
“Sorry, I’m just a little surprised,” Kyouko admitted. “Akari’s a sweet girl, but she can be rather hard to notice.”
“It’s not like that any longer,” Yui said. At least it wasn’t for her. “She taller than you now, you know.”
“Urk,” was the noise Kyouko made in response. She had noticed, but had tried to ignore it. Her reaction made Yui smile a little. “S-still though,” Kyouko said, trying to think of a way to recover.
“Look, if you’re just going to keep making fun of my g-girl… girlf… the girl I’m dating, I guess this is hopeless,” Yui said, her cheeks blushing when she tried to say ‘girlfriend’.
“Yui, are you blushing?” Kyouko asked with a grin. Yui turned away, and Kyouko giggled.
“Don’t be a jerk,” Yui muttered.
“And I’m not making fun of her, honest. I…” Kyouko sighed. “I promise I’ll take this seriously. What did you want to ask?” Yui glanced back towards Kyouko, then rested her head on the desk.
“I don’t know what I’m doing, Kyouko,” Yui said. “I told Akari we’ll figure it out, but I have no idea how to date anyone. What do I do?” It sucked to feel so helpless.
“Ah, I see,” Kyouko said sagely. “You’re adrift on the sea of love, so you turn to your wise senpai for help!” When she saw the look Yui was giving her, she added: “Hey! I’m your senpai in matters of love, at least!” A myriad of emotions flowed across Yui’s face, too rapidly for Kyouko to be able to read them.
“I guess,” Yui said with a slight smile.
She wasn’t about to admit it, but Kyouko was feeling relieved. She had noticed that Yui had been struggling with something since they started high school. And for some reason, Kyouko hadn’t been able to bring it up. They had been friends for so long, but for whatever reason, Kyouko hadn’t been able to bring herself to try to talk to Yui about it. And as Yui got worse, it became harder and harder to say anything. There was this feeling Kyouko had that it was somehow her fault, but she didn’t want to think seriously about exactly why that might be. So the cycle kept going of Yui pretending she was okay, and Kyouko pretending she believed her.
Maybe it was because of her image. Kyouko knew she was seen as the clueless, brash one. Always going after what she wanted, without paying attention to what was around her. Maybe that was the reason… maybe. She had been a lot like that in middle school, but people change. But it was still easy to pretend she didn’t notice. Maybe that was the only reason.
So when the second year started, and Yui changed again, Kyouko wasn’t sure at first whether it was for better or worse. She wasn’t completely oblivious, but she also wouldn’t call herself an expert at reading people. But it had seemed like Yui had gradually gotten more relaxed as the weeks and months passed. Had she been spending time with Akari? Kyouko wouldn’t admit this out loud either, but she didn’t really know much about what Yui did outside of school any longer. She had Ayano, and Yui seemed quite okay with not having to hang out with them. Her and Yui being alone was awkward. That was another thing where Kyouko didn’t want to think too hard about why.
But now Yui seemed a lot more at ease, and her smiles looked genuine again. And that was because of Akari? A strange thought for sure. Small, nearly invisible Akari. Kyouko had trouble thinking of her in any other way, even though she was now not that small, nor that invisible. But since she still had a ‘gift’ for blending into the background, the old image stuck. Yet perhaps Yui genuinely saw it differently.
And now Yui was asking her for relationship advice. Kyouko felt this was all a bit bizarre, but at least it was as if they were talking normally again. She hadn’t quite realised how much she had missed that.
“What is it you’re asking exactly?” she asked. “Quiet places to sneak away? Kissing tips? Good places to grab?” Yui was getting redder with each thing Kyouko was saying, which was just spurring Kyouko on. “Or do you want to know how to finger-”
“Aaaaahhhhhhhh!” Yui waved her hands frantically at Kyouko to make her stop. “I don’t want to hear that!” she said loudly, and half of the rest of the class glanced towards them. Yui wanted to crawl under the desk. “Have you no shame?” Her attempted look of annoyance was just one of embarrassment.
“You know I don’t,” Kyouko said with a big grin.
“Ngh… this was a mistake,” Yui said, and started to go back to her notes.
“Ah, Yui! No, I want to help!” Kyouko said. She definitely didn’t want the conversation to end yet. “I’ll behave.” Yui looked at her suspiciously.
“That remains to be seen,” she said. Yui wasn’t about to admit it either, but it was nice to be able to talk to Kyouko like this again, even if it was an embarrassing subject. It felt freeing to just talk without the baggage. Almost like old times. “Alright, I’ll give you another chance. I guess what I want to know is… well… just… what do people do when they’re going out? And I don’t mean the… the pervy stuff you talked about.” She lowered her voice for that last part, in case anyone was listening in.
“Well…” Kyouko pondered that. She tried to remember what it was like when she and Ayano just started out. How nervous she had been was a secret that was staying with her until the grave. “Actually going out is something. I’m being serious,” she added when she saw Yui’s expression change. “Go places. Like take a walk, go shopping, karaoke, a movie, or just hang out together at home. Be affectionate. Talk about romantic stuff. That kind of thing.”
“Hm… that sounds like more decent advice than I expected,” Yui said while nodding slightly. It could have been a little more specific maybe.
“Oh, ye of little faith. I’m basically an expert now!” Kyouko declared confidently. Yui wasn’t as convinced. “How far along are you? What have you done so far? Cuddling? Kissing? Groping?” Kyouko asked, and Yui was going red again.
“I-I’m not telling you that!” she said loud enough that people started looking their way again. “Sh-should we be kissing already?” she whispered, her curiosity overcoming her. “Isn’t that a pretty serious step?”
“You think so? Ayano and I started within like a week,” Kyouko said. Which was a slight exaggeration.
“I’m not sure I needed to know that… but that’s you. I’m not so… bold,” Yui said, stopping short of saying ‘shameless’ this time. “Besides, we haven’t even held hands yet…”
“You haven’t even… then what do you do together?” Kyouko had to ask.
“Um… ah… n-not a lot, I guess,” Yui said, and hung her head. The way they had held each other had been a one-time thing, and they’d both been somewhat nervous and embarrassed since. Kyouko didn’t need to know about that.
“Wow, you definitely need my help,” Kyouko said, and grinned. “Don’t worry, I shall treat this task responsibly!”
The door suddenly opened, and the teacher stepped in. Seems they had talked all the way through the break too.
“We’ll talk more later,” Kyouko whispered. “I’ll have some great tips for you.” Yui had her doubts, but she had been the one who asked.
Chitose had become unexpectedly popular in high school. Especially unexpected by herself. Her soft voice, kind demeanour, helpful attitude, responsible conduct, and cute appearance had made her quite popular with a fair amount of the student body. It probably helped that almost no one in this school was aware of her more perverted side. That might have made her popular with a different kind of people. She wasn’t the most popular at the school, but she had acquired a fanbase it was hard to ignore. Someone confessing to her happened about every other week.
Which she found a little unfortunate, as she wasn’t particularly interested in dating anyone. Turning them down was always awkward. She had tried dating during the first year, but after a couple of unsuccessful attempts it felt like something that maybe wasn’t for her. She liked watching other couples better. Ayano and Kyouko especially, but she enjoyed seeing other sweet couples too. If only she could use her influence to become a matchmaker on a larger scale, but that was easier said than done.
“Hello Ikeda-senpai.” So when Chitose heard someone speak up behind her, she at first thought it was another fan. But when she turned around she saw a familiar redhead instead.
“Akaza-san?” She was aware that Akari had started going to this school, and she saw her occasionally, but they hadn’t really spoken much to each other. Chitose got hit by a sudden worry that Akari had become one of her fans.
“It’s been a while,” Akari said with a smile. “I… um… I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time?” Hearing that didn’t exactly make Chitose’s worry go away. Maybe it was best to try to immediately turn her down gently.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t really-” she started to say, but Akari gave her a pleading look.
“Please? I… I need some advice, and… and I don’t know who else to turn to,” Akari said, which gave Chitose pause. What sort of advice would Akari come to her for?
“What about Toshinou-san, or Funami-san?” she asked, but Akari shook her head.
“No, I… not for this, it’s…” Akari started looking around. She felt like everyone could hear, in spite of her notorious ability to go unnoticed. “C-can we talk somewhere private? It doesn’t have to be right now.” This was certainly piquing Chitose’s curiosity. Thanks to information they got via the student council, she was aware of an empty classroom they could go to for a while.
“Alright, come with me Akaza-san,” she said, and started leading the way. Some of Chitose’s fans nearby looked on jealously, but soon started to wonder why. Akari’s stealth instincts were kicking in automatically, and her presence was diminishing. Even though you’d think it would be hard to not notice a tall, curvy redhead. Chitose was having some issues herself, even with Akari walking right by her. She sometimes had to look directly at Akari to make sure she was still there.
When they reached the classroom, Akari closed the door behind them. She wasn’t entirely sure if Chitose could actually help, but it was her best bet. Chitose took a seat.
“I see your old skills haven’t left you,” she said. A little uncharacteristic of her, but she couldn’t help it.
“Huh? Oh,” Akari got what she meant. “I… sorry… when I get nervous, it just… happens.” Or when I want to be alone, or when I’m not paying attention, she added to herself. Chitose smiled kindly.
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” she said. At least Akari hadn’t vanished so completely Chitose had forgotten she was even there, though Chitose wasn’t sure if that was because of her being that observant, or Akari having a little more presence. “So what did you want to talk about, Akaza-san?”
“Well…” Akari fidgeted for a few moments before sitting down at the desk next to Chitose. “You see… um… I recently became Yui-chan’s g-girlfriend.” Chitose’s eyes widened a bit.
“Funami-san’s… girlfriend? Really?” she said, having a hard time hiding her surprise. Akari nodded.
“Yeah, I have a hard time believing it too,” she said, and Chitose felt a little embarrassed about having said it like that.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean… I… that was rude of me. I apologise,” she said.
“It’s okay, really,” Akari said, and smiled a little. “I never expected anyone would be interested in me, and certainly not Yui-chan. So I don’t blame anyone else for being surprised.” Chitose wouldn’t have said she never expected anyone considering how Akari had developed, but she had gotten the distinct impression that Yui’s interest was elsewhere. She didn’t want to say that out loud though.
“Well, congratulations. I’m sure you’ll be a cute couple,” Chitose said warmly. In a way it was a shame Akari had grown so tall, since it would have been more interesting if they were a ‘small and tall’ couple. Chitose quickly reined in her fantasies. It wouldn’t do to get carried away and have a nosebleed right here and now.
“Th-thank you,” Akari said with a blush. “But… um… that’s where I need help… I don’t know what couples do, and… and I was hoping you might…” She looked shyly at Chitose, who was a bit lost for words.
“Me? I can’t really claim to be any sort of expert. Surely there must be someone better suited,” Chitose said, fairly sure she had very little idea what couples do. Outside of her fantasies.
“I’m sorry, Ikeda-senpai,” Akari said quietly. “I wouldn’t be bothering you if you weren’t my best option. B-but if you can’t help, then I guess there’s nothing to be done about that.” Akari looked and sounded really deflated.
She’s like a puppy, Chitose thought, and started feeling bad about trying to turn Akari away. “Well, I can try to help,” she said. “I know a few couples, after all.” Admittedly mainly one, but she had watched some others. No need to add too much detail. “What exactly is it you want to know?” she asked, and Akari cheered up.
“Just… just basic stuff. I don’t even know where to start,” Akari admitted. She felt somewhat like she was in a foreign country without a map or guide. “What are you supposed to do when you’re dating someone?” Chitose pondered how to answer this. She knew what she liked to imagine couples doing, but that was probably not a good starting point.
“Going on dates feels like the obvious answer, but that might not be what you’re asking,” she said, and thought for a moment longer. “I suppose couples do stuff like holding hands, sharing milkshakes, kissing…”
“K-k-k-kis-” Akari’s face easily matched her hair. “Tha-that’s not a beginner thing, i-is it?” At least she hoped not. “I’m not sure I’m ready for that… I even feel nervous thinking about holding hands. I keep worrying that someone will see us.”
“I think you have to accept that some people will see you,” Chitose said kindly, pushing her glasses up to make sure they weren’t about to slide off. “It would be difficult to keep it entirely secret, don’t you think?” she asked.
“I… I guess so,” Akari conceded. It wasn’t that she wanted to keep it secret, she was just really shy and nervous about it.
“But if you don’t mind me asking, what have you two been doing up until now?” Chitose asked. Which wasn’t just to have more fodder for her fantasies.
“Ah… not much,” Akari admitted. “We’ve had lunch together, and we talk about stuff, and… oh no, that’s just what we always do anyway.” She hadn’t realised that until she said it out loud. “We did accidentally end up holding each other after she confessed, but I’ve been too embarrassed to try anything similar since.”
“Accidentally? How- Never mind, that’s not important,” Chitose said. She could ponder that one later. It was also interesting to learn that it was Yui who had confessed. “Well then, Akaza-san. If you truly want my advice, I say it sounds like you should take some initiative.”
“Initiative?” Akari squeaked.
“Yes. Invite her to go somewhere, ask to hold her hand, or be so bold as to just take it,” Chitose said firmly, and Akari shrunk a little. Chitose had trouble focusing on her for a moment before she became more present again.
“I… um… I…” Akari tried to think of a way to refuse, but… “I… I did come asking for your advice. I guess I can’t back out now,” she said a little hesitantly. That’s right, she had sought Chitose for her advice, and now she had gotten it. “I’ll do my best to be a braver Akari. Thank you, Ikeda-senpai.” Akari got up from the desk. It was only about five minutes till the next class, so they should both get going.
“You’re welcome, Akaza-san,” Chitose said while getting up herself. “And good luck. I’ll be rooting for you,” she added with an encouraging smile.
They said goodbye and parted ways. Chitose watched Akari walk away for a few seconds before heading towards her own classroom.
Akaza-san and Funami-san. That should be interesting, she thought to herself. Two girls, both shy in their own way, coming together. One typically cheerful, one typically serious. The stuff of some beautiful fantasies. She hurriedly checked whether her nose was bleeding. It seemed to be fine, but it might be best to try to think of something else for now.